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U.S. Will Not Sign Trade Agreement Unless Soviets Pass Immigration Law

President Bush will put off signing a trade agreement with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev if the Soviet Union has not adopted its long-awaited emigration reform law by the time the two leaders meet here May 31 to June 3.

This was confirmed Tuesday by White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater, who said Bush and Gorbachev are expected to sign various agreements June 1, after two days of talks here.

After those talks, Bush and Gorbachev will spend a day at the Camp David presidential retreat and then hold a news conference and issue concluding statements June 3. Gorbachev is then scheduled to visit Minneapolis and California, where he may meet with former President Ronald Reagan.

At their summit off Malta last December, Bush made clear he would not sign a trade bill until the Soviets adopted a law institutionalizing the improvements they have made in their emigration policies.

Fitzwater agreed Tuesday that the new law is a “prerequisite” and the “prerequisites have not changed.”

Secretary of State James Baker has left for Moscow for talks with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze to nail down the final details of the summit, including what agreements are to be signed.

But Fitzwater stressed that all agreements, including a trade pact, will not be completed until the final details are worked out by Bush and Gorbachev.

The Baker-Shevardnadze meeting could provide the impetus for the Soviet parliament to adopt the emigration reform bill.

LAW MAY STILL BE PASSED

Both Martin Wenick, executive director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, and Micah Naftalin, national director of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, said they believed the Supreme Soviet would adopt the law before the Bush-Gorbachev summit. The date of May 22 has been mentioned by some observers.

But for the trade agreement to take effect, Bush would also have to waive the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which denies special tariff privileges to the Soviet Union until emigration levels meet the president’s approval.

In a speech in Texas last May, Bush said he would consider a waiver for a year if the emigration reform law were adopted and implemented. Even if the Soviets adopt the law before the summit, there presumably will be no time to implement it before Bush and Gorbachev get together.

But Wenick said that in talks with the administration, there was the suggestion that Bush would take into account Soviet performance since his May 1989 speech in considering whether to grant a waiver. During this period, Jewish emigration figures have reached unprecedented highs.

The Soviet Jewry groups want the law to end, or at least case, two barriers to emigration: the possession of state secrets and the poor relatives law, which bars emigration by persons considered having a financial obligation to a relative.

The two groups have asked Baker to continue raising with Shevardnadze the issue of long-term refuseniks who have been denied exit visas on these criteria.

However, the situation in the Baltic republics could make all this academic, since it is doubtful that Congress will approve the trade agreement if the Soviets continue to take action against Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the three Baltic republics that are seeking to regain independence from the Soviet Union.

LINKAGE TO BALTIC CRISIS OPPOSED

Fitzwater conceded Tuesday that the United States has differences with the Soviet Union over such issues as Lithuania, but wants to solve the problems through discussions without rancor.

“This summit will demonstrate a new sense of realism about our relationship,” the press secretary said.

Jewish groups have traditionally opposed linking a Jackson-Vanik waiver to anything but increased emigration.

“Jackson-Vanik should be waived at the point they (the Soviets) have earned it,” said Naftalin of the Union of Councils. But he added that it “is fair game” to link a trade agreement to the broader issue of human rights.

Naftalin said the administration will be asked to press Gorbachev on the same human rights issues that the United States will raise at the human rights conference in Copenhagen June 5 to 29, which is being held as part of the continuing assessment of the Helsinki human rights accords.

Bush has appointed Max Kampelman to head the U.S. delegation to what is being officially called the Conference on the Human Dimension. Kampelman, long active in Jewish affairs, represented the United States at a previous follow-up conference in Madrid and was an arms control negotiator in the Reagan administration.

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